Bourdain, A Hemingway In Our Time

August 27th, 2018


Anthony Bourdain’s death in June hit me profoundly and silently, in the dark place where souls and secrets reside.

Whereas most of my heroes are long gone (Hemingway, Neruda, my father), Bourdain lived among us. He discovered our streets, dined with our president, lived out our pain.

I’ll admit, I didn’t watch most of his TV shows. I can probably count on one hand the number of episodes I viewed. But Bourdain’s work– his life– could be admired from afar, in an almost a transubstantial way. His work permeated the social consciousness of our globalized world. When he ate in Hanoi, so did we.

Now, he’s gone. Here was a man living the dream… or at least the dream we sell ourselves. Travel. Food. Drink. Writing. When I caught wind that he suffered from depression, that didn’t surprise me. What it did do is feed into the festering thought: “What if all this isn’t really the answer?”

What if we are creating idols of these trending lifestyles? What if it’s all bunk?

Bourdain had it all. So what the fuck?

It’s an important question to ask, to feel…. even if the answer isn’t readily available.

I try to live like my father before me. I pray. I eat well. I try to make the people around me laugh. I push loved ones to be their best and hope they push me. I travel, seek to learn, grow, discover, to never be finished. I look for ways to contribute my voice to the choir, to add my verses.

I struggle with how to show care or to whom. I struggle with happiness, as if I have an allergy to it. 

“How well do I love?” is a question that haunts me, because I’m afraid I already know the answer.

I try to remind myself that these are skills, that I can get better at them.

But sometimes I forget.

If there’s any take away from Bourdain’s life and death (for now), it’s two fold:

  1. That we need to be honest about these feelings. There’s nothing courageous about hiding from them. There’s nothing brave about gritting our teeth alone. Be honest with yourself, be honest with your friends. Mental health and emotional well being should be a part of our everyday goals and conversations. They are no different than diets, working out, professional advice, etc. 
  2. That even in an age of technology and social media, food is still a powerful force of the human condition. It still brings us together as well as it did a millennia ago.
  3. That how we eat and what we eat and where we eat and who we eat with matters. We need to feed ourselves well and with the right stuff. Most importantly, we have to take time to feed each other.

RIP Anthony.


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